Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Doldrums

Not much to report. In a kind of summer doldrums, I guess. Been copy editing "Swash!" the last few weeks in preparation for self-publishing it. Got a third "thanks but no thanks" from a New York agency, leaving five or so who haven't responded (six weeks in). Sorry, traditional publishing. Life's too short to wait for you.

Actually looking forward to the next project, a novel length, humorous (hopefully) work based on my old-school P.I. Dick Londergan. Thinking it might have some "Don Quixote" in it. Time will tell. Will start that in earnest within the next week or so.

Am about two-thirds of the way through Stephen King's "Under the Dome" and as I've tweeted, I really don't care what happens to any of the people. The book has been compared to "The Stand" (at least in breadth), but as I recall, "The Stand" had clearly marked lines of who was good and who was evil. The good people were very good. The evil people were very evil. You cared what happened to the good people.

Now I know that was intrinsic to the plot, but isn't it important you have somebody to root for? There are very few people in this book you can.

I've blogged before about my difficult relationship with Stephen King. Read everything I could by him when I was younger, and then he started killing off his characters, e.g. the young kids at the end of "Cujo" and "Pet Semetary."

"Cujo" in particular pissed me off (at least young Gage in "Pet Semetary" came back . . . sort of). You read hundreds of pages rooting for these people and then he goes and kills them off?

(Course in his defense, as he later confessed, he doesn't even remember writing it. Cocaine's a hell of a drug).

Before I took a long break from reading him (after "Gerald's Game" I think it was), I said, "If he doesn't care about his characters, then why should I?"

Anyway, it's hard now as an aspiring writer not to read another's work with an eye toward their craft. In this book, King does a lot of foreshadowing . .. well, it's not really foreshadowing. He basically tells you what's going to happen before it does, stuff like:

"He kissed his wife goodbye. It would be the last time they saw each other."

And then the guy goes and gets killed. There is LOTS of that in this book, surprisingly. Another thing he does quite a bit of is inject himself and his own opinions into the story (think they call that "author intrusion"). There's lots of THAT in this book as well.

And it's readily apparent what is there to move the story along and what is preaching. In my case, he's preaching to the choir (least I don't have a problem with the politics he's injected into the story). But I can imagine there are some who will.

Curiously too, while he injects lots of real products and personalities into the story (Wolf Blitzer, Lester Holt, Obama, etc.) there is a plane crash of an Irish passenger jet that he calls "Air Ireland" as opposed to Aer Lingus. Wonder if he contacted them and asked permission and they said no, or whether he thought it best not to use a real airline's name. I suspect the latter.

At any rate, the story begins terrifically enough, with the dome slamming down on the second or the third page. Lots truly believable gore and mayhem. But I'm finding it hard to suspend my disbelief for much of what happens later. It's obvious what King is trying to do here (selectman turning into tinpot dictators, many of the young people in town turning into Hitler Youth).

Two-thirds of the way in, I'm still not sure what the dome is (though I've just finished the part where one character discovers what is generating it). Looking forward (I suppose) to learning that.

Of course, I write none of this as criticism. Simply the musings of someone who'd like one day to be as good as him (and hey, why not better?)

Anyway, he's already got a piece of my $19.99 (for the paperback, no less, though at more than a thousand pages it's lots of bang for your buck). There's no doubt I'll finish it. And I suppose it's possible that an explosive ending will completely turn me around from my current "meh" thoughts about it.

If nothing else, I'm rooting for that.


Aaron Polson said...

"Life's too short to wait for you"

Isn't it, though?

Hasn't King sort of gotten to the point of "publish-whatever-with-my-name-on-it"? I love the guy's work (most of it), but Under the Dome was a trunk novel at one time, wasn't it?

Brendan said...

Heh. Thanks, Aaron.

Actually, I think King has long felt disrespected, but the National Book Award he received a few years ago (deservedly so, in my opinion) went a long way toward him feeling more "respected" (from what I've read, anyway).

And yeah, I understand "Dome" was indeed a trunk novel. Looks to me like today's political environment was the impetus for him to update and finish it. The book is a not so subtle polemic against folks slowly giving up their own rights, laws being set aside for the "greater good" during a time of "emergency" etc.

It's obvious the last ten years or so provided much grist for his mill.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm reading it (and am not above putting down something awful). But like I said (and as you well know) it's hard now to read someone else without pondering this stuff.

And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

Brendan said...

PS: Now that I think of it, I remember reading that "Under the Dome" wasn't so much a trunk novel as . . . he lost it. Literally.

I forget the details as to how and why (should be easily Googlable) but I think years went by before it turned up again.

Can you imagine writing so much you could literally "lose" a completed novel?

No. I can't. (:>)